According to CNN’s recent article “Blogs helping expose Myanmar horrors,” blogging citizen journalists like Ko Htike are helping get information out of Myanmar despite the ardent efforts of government leaders to silence them:
Armed with a laptop, a blogger named Ko Htike has thrust himself into the middle of the violent crackdown against monks and other peaceful demonstrators in his homeland of Myanmar. Ko Htike runs his Myanmar blog out of his London apartment and says he’s trying to stop the violence. From more than 5,500 miles away, he’s one of the few people getting much needed information out to the world. He runs the blog out of his London apartment, waking up at 3 a.m. every day to review the latest digitally smuggled photos, video and information that’s sent in to him. With few Western journalists allowed in Myanmar, Htike’s blog is one of the main information outlets. He said he has as many as 40 people in Myanmar sending him photos or calling him with information. They often take the photos from windows from their homes, he said.
Can you imagine facing imprisonment and possible death for posting photos online? That is the reality for Myanmar citizen journalists.
- Myanmar: Soldiers back down in Mandalay by Preetam Rai
- Myanmar: Internet Blocked by Preetam Rai
- Korea: Myanmar and Korea by Hyejin Kim
The article China: Bloggers side with Burmese monks by John Kennedy reflects the impact this incident and the accessibility of disruptive technologies like blogs are having on other countries in the region. John writes:
While Chinese authorities remain weaselly in their diplomatic response to Myanmar’s fatal clampdown on the tens of thousands of monks and citizens of Yangon who have come out to rally for an end to the military dictatorship, a number of influential Chinese bloggers have taken the radical move of going against all known truths regarding The Chinese Mind as of Sept. 17, 2007 with some throwing their weight squarely behind the Saffron Revolution and others even using this incident as an opportunity to reflect on the state of China’s own democratic movement.
We are still living in a world riven with suffering, greed, corruption, war, and the abuse of power. Yet despite these harsh realities, the tools available at the fingertips of those with access to the Internet and the global stage it represents are fundamentally different from the communication tools of the past. As I noted in December and August of 2006, educators at multiple levels need to not only highlight the value of current, credible, non-traditional information sources like Global Voices Online and Wikipedia, but also encourage learners of all ages to acquire both the critical thinking skill set as well as digital literacy skill set of the citizen journalist.
The situation continuing to unfold in Myanmar is fundamentally different from other “headlines” we see in the popular press. This isn’t a sporting event or a distracting story about a celebrity facing jail time. The issues of human rights, including self-determination, at stake in Myanmar and elsewhere are of transcendent importance. These are not merely theoretical constructs worth exploring, debating, and defending, however, these are real events which are affecting the lives of millions in different parts of the world.
While some news reporters like Brigid Delaney are also emphasizing the constructively disruptive potential of citizen journalism and blogging to shed light on issues authoritarian leaders would prefer to keep in the dark, we need to remember that access to digital tools to both read about these ideas (and see these images) as well as the capacity to publish them individually is still sharply limited across the planet. Yet, these distributed, empowering technologies do represent a “chink in the regime’s armor” in Myanmar (to borrow Brigid’s phrase) and do not appear to be going away.
Do the students in your classroom know about what is happening in Myanmar today? I’m sure that is not on your curriculum pacing guide for today, but do you think the events there are significant enough to warrant a “sidetrip for learning” today on this topic, even if it is a brief one? How should your students determine the validity of content they read on the web, about this issue and others? If you don’t take an opportunity to use this as a teachable moment, what other opportunities to learn about media literacy do you think you’ll use this year to help students develop lasting memories and skills on these subjects? If, as Tim Tyson exhorts us to consider, “meaningfulness” begins today regardless of our age or context, should we be taking concrete actions to affect situations like that in Myanmar, even if those actions seem “limited” to helping inform others about what is happening?
I think the answer is yes.
blog, blogging, blogs, censorship, citizenjournalism, myanmar, globalvoicesonline, globalvoices, burma, humanrights, selfdetermination, education, school, literacy, medialiteracy, validate, truth
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